Just Go Outside!
We are finding ourselves in a time that is very unfamiliar. With all the awful negatives affiliated with the COVID19 pandemic, there are definitely a few positives that some of us are experiencing. Getting outside and being physically active has challenges with social distancing and the cancellation of organized sport. However, many of us now have extra time with our little people to allow for more time outside. But do we really want our little people outside?
Short answer: yes! Here’s why:
The Reggio Emilia approach states the two biggest teachers for a child are their families and then educators. The third teacher is considered to be the physical environment. Being outside is not just a place for children to go so you can have a quiet house for 2 minutes, but the outdoor natural environment is full of learning opportunities for your children to explore.
Removing walls takes with it the physical and metaphorical barriers. Being outdoors typically allows for uninterrupted play where children can foster a sense of curiosity and imagination of the world around them. Being ‘bored’ can see children show massive amounts of ingenuity and resourcefulness.
There is a plethora of information and research outlining the amazing benefits of safely exposing children to the outdoors on a regular basis. This can include eye function, brain development and physical activity. As the weather gets colder, going outdoors can become more problematic. Cold weather doesn’t cause colds, but colds can be more common in colder weather because:
- People are in close contact with each other because they stay indoors
- Cold viruses stay in the air and on surfaces longer in cold, dry environments
- Your body’s ability to fight cold viruses is reduced at lower temperatures
Exposure to the outdoors can be very beneficial for children’s social development as they learn to interact and negotiate with others. Typically outdoors is going to offer more physical space, this can allow for an environment that nurtures social relationships as it can seem less daunting to establish connections with peers.
Freedom! Allowing children the time and space to explore the outdoor environment can support their sense of freedom as supported by the Phoenix Cup Theory based on William Glasser’s choice theory. Fostering a collaborative relationship between children and the natural environment can greatly impact their overall sense of wellbeing.
Inherently, there are less rules outdoors. Children are able to implement trial and error to the environment where they increase their sense of autonomy. They learn resilience through this method of play.
Allowing children to freely explore the outdoors fosters their curiosity dispositions and inquisitive nature. How can I reach that lemon high on the tree? Where are all of those ants going? What can I use to roll my truck down? Children are able to engage in risky plan where they take calculated risks to enhance their play.
Connection to land
We have been gifted this land by the traditional custodians of where you are located. It is our duty to ensure we embed in our children a responsibility to care for the natural environment. Being in nature encourages children to connect with and respect the world around them. This can develop a sense of empathy which is applicable in many aspects of their life.
Children may need to develop the skills over time to be in nature and create their own play. As parents and educators, it is up to us to facilitate this which may include us involving ourselves in their play initially.
Outdoor play ideas
Here are some ideas to get children outdoors and physically active:
- Walking Bingo – Participate in a socially distant nature walk with cards where children are encouraged to find certain items such as a purple flower, the number 2 on a letterbox or gumnuts. The collected loose parts could be later used in play as well.
- Ball games – passes, kicking, rolling, bouncing, cricket.
- Craft – Take paints outside, use chalk on the footpath, construct things such as cars from recycled items.
- Music – Have music playing outside and encourage a dance party.
- Map – Print off a map of the neighborhood, encourage the children to highlight a track and go for a walk together where they are the navigator.
- Photography – Use cameras or devices and encourage children to take photos of things they, perhaps, find beautiful or are interested in.
- Care for the environment – care for the yard with the children. Clear sticks, weed the garden or sweep the path. You may be surprised how willing children are to help.
- Water – slip and slides, water with paint brushes to paint brick walls, a tub of water with different sized cups.
- Games – structured games such as stuck in the mud, what’s time time Mr Wolf or tip.
Let’s use this time we have to instill in our children the importance of outdoors and perhaps gain some more respect for that ourselves.